In 2nd attack in less than 48 hours, settlers throw rocks at troops near Yitzhar
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In 2nd attack in less than 48 hours, settlers throw rocks at troops near Yitzhar

Border Police use stun grenades to disperse rioters throwing stones, paint bottles close to West Bank settlement; IDF declares area of weekend attack a closed military zone

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers stand by as masked Israeli settlers throw stones at Palestinian protesters (unseen) gathering during a demonstration against construction on an Israeli outpost near the Palestinian village of Turmusaya and the settlement of Shilo, north of Ramallah in the West Bank, October 17, 2019. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)
Illustrative: Israeli soldiers stand by as masked Israeli settlers throw stones at Palestinian protesters (unseen) gathering during a demonstration against construction on an Israeli outpost near the Palestinian village of Turmusaya and the settlement of Shilo, north of Ramallah in the West Bank, October 17, 2019. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Less than 48 hours after clashes between security forces and settlers near the northern West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, a group of 10 settlers threw rocks and bottles of paint at Border Police in the same area on Monday evening.

One soldier was reportedly hit by a rock but did not require medical treatment, and the army dispersed the rioters using stun grenades, according to Hebrew media reports.

On Sunday, a Border Police battalion was ordered to take up position near the Yitzhar settlement as a deterrent against further violent activities by residents of the outposts in the area, the Kan public broadcaster reported. The border guards made a similar deployment in April 2014, after a string of attacks and acts of vandalism from the Yitzhar settlement and surrounding outposts, including one case in which residents attacked an IDF encampment.

Monday’s incident came after riots overnight Saturday-Sunday involving some 30 settlers, according to the IDF, who hurled stones at troops and punctured tires of military vehicles. One soldier was lightly injured by a rock.

A military jeep damaged in riots by settlers near the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar on October 20, 2019. (Courtesy)

The army responded by using riot dispersal means and firing in the air. A soldier was lightly injured by a stone and received medical treatment at the scene, the military said. No arrests were announced.

Earlier Monday, the Israel Defense Forces declared the site of that attack, in the Kumi Ori outpost next to Yitzhar, to be a closed military zone, meaning only residents would be allowed to enter and exit the area.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, and politicians from both sides of the aisle denounced the weekend violence. Labor-Gesher leader Amir Peretz on Monday demanded a powerful Knesset committee convene to address a Saturday night attack on soldiers by settlers, calling it “terror in the full sense of the word.”

The weekend’s violence came after a pair of arrests angered hardline residents of Yitzhar and the surrounding outposts. The first on Wednesday when security forces nabbed a teenager suspected of starting a fire in a Palestinian-owned field located near his home. The minor’s attorney claimed the arresting officer from the Golani brigade had used unnecessary force in apprehending his client, who was released two days later to house arrest.

That evening, a second teen was arrested in the Yitzhar area after the army said he had threatened Golani infantry brigade commander Lieutenant-Colonel Ayoub Kayouf.

The military said that the incident was taken care of with the cooperation of the Israel Police and local settler leadership, leading to the arrest of the youth.

“The IDF unequivocally condemns physical and verbal abuse toward its servicemen and takes a very harsh view of this incident,” it said.

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers stand by as masked Israeli settlers throw stones at Palestinian protesters (unseen) during a demonstration against construction on an Israeli outpost near the Palestinian village of Turmusaya and the settlement of Shilo, north of Ramallah in the West Bank, on October 17, 2019. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

While there had been reports that the Yitzhar youth had assaulted Kayouf, the leadership of the settlement reiterated in a statement that there was no suspicion that the minor had physically assaulted the officer, and touted its cooperation with the authorities. The statement railed at the timing of the arrest — on Friday night, during the Jewish Sabbath — calling it “a gross violation of individual rights as well as the sanctity of Shabbat.”

Also on Wednesday, Israeli rights groups reported that a gang of masked settlers armed with crowbars violently assaulted a group of activists, among them an 80-year-old rabbi, who were assisting Palestinian farmers in the northern West Bank with their harvest.

Rabbis for Human Rights activist Moshe Yehudai, who the NGO says was assaulted by a group of masked settlers in the northern West Bank on October 16, 2019. (Rabbis for Human Rights)

This year’s annual olive harvest, which has just begun, has seen several incidents of violence in the West Bank. The harvest is a frequent scene of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers that the IDF says it seeks to prevent.

Most recently, on Saturday, masked Israeli settlers were filmed hurling stones at Palestinian farmers and stealing their olives, in footage released by the Yesh Din rights group.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said three farmers from the northern West Bank town of Burin were hospitalized after they were beaten with clubs by Israeli youth. They were released later Saturday afternoon.

After chasing the farmers from their plot, the over two dozen Israeli youth who reached Burin from the neighboring Givat Ronen outpost stole a sheet used for collecting olives, a large bag of olives, and personal belongings, a Yesh Din field worker reported.

After a group of Palestinian youth returned to the scene, clashes broke out between them and the settlers, with both sides hurling stones at one another.

Two Border Police jeeps subsequently arrived at the scene and used riot dispersal measures to disperse the Palestinians.

Later Saturday evening, the IDF and Israel Police confirmed the accusations of settler violence. The army said that eight Israelis hurled stones at Palestinians, injuring one of them before fleeing the scene. A police spokeswoman said that the clashes had ended by the time officers had arrived and therefore they were unable to conduct arrests.

A spokeswoman for the Samaria Regional Council said the Yesh Din account was “nonsense,” but did not provide additional information.

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